A project for everyone

When you want to launch a business, you write a plan.
When you want to build a house, you get a project.
When you travel for pleasure, you put an itinerary together.
When you marry, you get a wedding planner.
When you decide to start saving for retirement, you consult a bank or financial advisor for the best plan.

So, knowingly or unknowingly, we put together a plan, a project every time we aim at something big that requires planning, analysis, and investment.

A project is a way to accomplish a goal within a deadline. It differs from everyday work or life because it has a beginning (the moment you start working on a plan) and an end (the moment you achieve the results). Once you’ve reached the results, your project ends. After that, you continue with your life as usual, and you will probably start another project soon. 

So, the tool I want to introduce summarises all the aspects of a project: the Project Charter. It is like a recap; it presents a story at a glance.

  • Let’s start with the project title. Give it a catchy and motivational name. It will lighten up the mood and is engaging for your stakeholders and your team. Something like: “My ultimate revamp” or “Peak” or an island name “Aruba”. 
  • Next, describe your SMART goal. What are you planning to achieve with this project? If you haven’t worked with SMART goals, please do so. Check out this VIDEO on how to set smart goals.
  • Work your scope. The scope refers to the extent of the work performed to deliver a result. Think about the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of your change journey when defining your project’s scope. What activities will you perform, which area will you cover, or which areas will you leave out and why… More focused and specific is your scope, more chances of success. Less is more.
  • The budget is a financial plan for a defined period. In the case of a project, it is for the period the project lasts. The funding can include provisions for expenses and investments. I can’t recommend enough to have this part clear – what money do you need to make your project happen? Don’t cut corners. Estimate realistically; a budget is crucial.

Don’t start a business without a budget or a plan to secure one.

  • Next, your team. Teamwork is the essence of your undertaking. It doesn’t matter if your project is personal or linked to your business; you will probably work in a team with somebody. So, specify who is on that team. 
  • Let’s move on to your dates. In the Project Charter Template, you can see that there is a set kick-off date, but only a planned end date. Let me explain… It is relatively easy to know when you will finish for small projects as there are not many variables to manage. However, setting a specific end date and sticking to it isn’t easy in more extensive or complex projects where you have dependencies on others. Still, you need to put a date, as you need to end your project at some point. So, the planned date is the date you will be aiming for.
  • Metrics/KPI’s/ Deliverables. Metrics is about how you measure your progress. How will you know that you are moving forward? How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal? You’ve already defined some measures if you’ve worked with the SMART goal definition. Now is the moment to further specify and state the frequency you will measure or conduct observations. It doesn’t matter how intangible your goal might seem; you have to find a way to measure your progress. If not, you will get sick. If you have trouble defining metrics or KPIs (which stands for Key Performance Indicators), try to measure by using time. Set up a scale and compare progress in minutes, days or weeks. 
  • Stakeholders. A stakeholder is any person who has a direct interest or is affected by your project. It could be a partner, family, friends, neighbours, even somebody you might not know yet. Still, you will probably meet as a result of your project activity. It could also be your boss, not necessarily because of the hierarchical relationship, but because of direct interdependence. For example, if you work in a big organisation, managers or colleagues from other departments can be your stakeholders if your project affects their areas or work scope.
  • Suppliers (applicable if you have suppliers). It is convenient to identify your suppliers here because your performance relies on their delivery. To do that, you can conduct general research to understand your supply market. It is commonly accepted best practice to select at least 3 suppliers to evaluate and compare costs and quality, delivery times, post-sales service, and claims handling. Sometimes when you are not very familiar with the product or service you need, studying suppliers is a way to learn about the market.
  • And finally, the risks. Once you have outlined and described all components of the project charter, you must identify the potential risks you might face whilst working on your project. Risks are those unpleasant events that can handicap our progress. Some risks are difficult to avoid or mitigate, and they can seriously slow you down. For example: an unexpected accident, flooding, a new disruptive technology, supplier bankruptcy. Others are foreseeable, and you can put a backup plan to deal with them. Examples can be: server downtime for maintenance, change in fashion trend, delay in supplier lead time, overbooking, excess of orders placed for your product. You have to plan resources and activities to minimise, monitor and control the probability of one or more risks. If you plan, you will be able to reduce the threats and even prevent them. 

So, now work on creating your project charter. I am sure you will come up with a complete picture of your transformational journey. You might even come across some surprises, something you did not expect when first you defined your goal. And that is not a problem; it is a good thing as it is better to spot it now and not later when you are deep into implementation. After that, it will be too late to change your scope without affecting your delivery.

All this might seem like a lot of effort to you. But I assure you two things: in the first place, all the work you do upfront in defining and organising is time well spent as later when you implement you are going to move so much faster and see results that last. Second, you are learning a process, a way of working and carrying out reliable changes. This means that you will be able to make even complex projects efficiently. 

DOWNLOAD THE PROJECT CHARTER TEMPLATE AND EXAMPLE

(GoogleSteeps – make a copy)